I’ve recently noticed teens and young adults taking a particular interest in building up their book collections. I’m delighted to see this. A personal collection, however large or small, new or old, displays your personality and interests so that your personal home space resonates with you and there’s something quite tactile and reassuring about a real book. Samantha Barnes, OwnerIn the same way that my visit to Snowshill Manor was like walking through my brain with the eclectism of interests, browsing the shelves of the 25,000 books housed in the cavernous Books and Ink was like seeing my every interest and enthusiasm reflected back at me. I can see myself making return visits to this emporium of joy frequently and making it my new best friend.
Yesterday, after finishing our epic 12½ mile walk, Emma and I went with Helen, Nick and Lily for lunch at the new Wee Bookshop and Cafe in Chinnor. It’s purpose is to raise money and awareness for bladder cancer but it is the most perfect kind of place. Inexpensively priced paninis and sandwiches, and teas and cakes can be enjoyed at tables amongst bright surroundings and surrounded by secondhand books. What’s more, if you position yourself right at the table (as I did) you can peruse many of the shelves from the comfort of your seat! Perfect!
There’s even a steam train that runs round the top of all the bookshelves. This place would truly make a fine location for a local book club to meet, or for a writer’s group to hold meetings.
I’ve always loved reading, and have never not had a ‘book on the go’. I also like writing them too. I can pinpoint the moment that I became a writer to my ninth birthday when my Grandpa gave me a toy theatre he had made, and I started turning the stories I had written into plays that I would put on for my family on Sunday afternoons. Before then though, I had still always been creative, with an (some might say over-) active imagination for stories.
No Saturday morning trip to town was, for me, complete without a trip to the local library or the local bookshop. I remember devouring the children’s library bare of books, and our bookshop was the the local WHSmith’s in the days when they did have proper book departments. A treat would be to go to Cambridge where I could lose myself in the (now sadly closed) Heffers Children’s Bookshop. Bookshops, have always been a place where you could find new books by authors you loved, or discover brilliant new authors you’d never heard of before. There’s something special about bookshops when it comes to discovering and falling in love with books and stories.
Now though, I’m not just a Reader, and a Writer but an author of the Indie breed. As such, I am, unapologetically in bed with Amazon. I would counter this to say that whilst I am in bed with Amazon and my debut novel The End Of All Worlds, it really is a marriage of convenience. For me telling a story and a good book is where it’s at, and if that means that to get new books out there that some publishing company have deemed “not to be for them” you have to go an Indie route that involves eBooks and multi-national conglomerates, then that’s the bed that I’m going to have to lie in.
I get less of a royalty but my book is opened out to a wider enough distribution as possible (I still get as much or more than I would per copy than a traditional publishing deal), and this means that, should they want to, your chain or your local independent bookshop can order copies. Why wouldn’t I do that? Why would I want to exclude real bookshops from being able to stick my book?
Amazon is convenient, sometimes all too convenient, but you can’t beat a proper bookshop. Just the other week I was on holiday in the New Forest and I wanted to get myself a copy of Susan Cooper’s new book Ghost Hawk. I want to the brilliant Fordingbridge Bookshop on the release date but they didn’t have it. As I was going home the next day I thought I’ll order it from Amazon… it turned out they couldn’t despatch it for 7-10 days…. at 3pm I phoned Fordingbridge Books back and ordered it. By lunchtime three following day I had it in my hands. Now that’s service.
If books are your bag, you should check out the manifesto that Fordingbridge Books have written for their website as to why books are important. I agree pretty much with all of it…
Yes, books are used as a sign of our taste / education / bias and are placed on show for those we allow into our house to see (something much more convoluted and less subtle to do with your e-reader of choice) but they are also objects we can loan and share with others. Being able to share a book you’ve loved with someone as instantly as handing them your heavily leafed copy rather than directing them to an Internet link. It is for this reason (and many others) that bookshops are still relevant and even essential.
So yes, Amazon has opened up the world of publication to me, but they are not the end of the story. I’m not sure that eBooks and online shops would ever inspire songs like this:
…or prompt people to spend however many hours making this:
I’m also not sure where you could put one of these if you are reading on your eReader? Come and see me at Blackwell’s Oxford’s Books Are My Bag party tomorrow, Saturday 14 September to get one for yourself…
Overheard in an independent bookshop:
Customer: Do you have Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451
Bookseller: Of course. Isn’t that the temperature at which Kindles burn?
Not actually an exchange that I overheard, or exactly a true transcript of the conversation, but an interesting expression of views.
There is nothing like a good, independent bookshop. No, there is nothing like a good bookshop, but a good independent bookshop, once found, tends to trump them all. I was in the gloriously excellent Aldeburgh Bookshop this weekend – a place where you can live, breath, and exist with books. It’s a delicious emporium of discoveries at every turn. Wonderful! The purveyors of such a wonderful establishment are not the source of the above mentioned exchange but I doubt that they have much care for eReaders either.
Personally though, I don’t think one should fear the eReader. I love my Kindle, but I also strongly, passionately, believe that it will never kill the book. No technology ever developed to date has ever successfully defeated the might of the book. That said the market for mass-market, stack’em’high printruns and ‘airport fiction’ may well disappear to be replaced by wifi download points but these other other outlets are already threatening the good Independent Bookseller.
What is certain is that the world is changing, and publishing with it. The old publishing models are in a state of flux. That’s not to say that the Davids of Indie authors will defeat the Goliaths of the publishing industry. They might and they might not, it really doesn’t matter. What ePublishing, Indie authors and self-publishng does for books is that it allows more stories to find more readers. A good independent (and indeed chain) bookseller should be embracing the eReader and all the choice that brings. The readers will respect them for it. They will come to the shop to find out what the good books are. The bookseller needs to nurture the appetite of the readers, and yes, sometimes suggesting books that get delivered wirelessly rather than in a paper bag, or self-published books where the margins are tighter because a company like Amazon are getting their cut. Give the reader what they want and they are more likely to listen to your suggestions and come back to your shop to buy those physical books that smell so good.
Just after 10 o’clock this morning the revised edition of The End Of All Worlds plopped through the letterbox in its shiny new all colour cover. I still find it hard to believe that it was less than 24 hours since I approved the digital proof and ordered a copy. Less than 24 hours and you can order a copy, have it printed, and dispatched and arrive through the letterbox? Ain’t technology great?
Changing the cover has been a controversial decision, with many of my friends actually preferring my own illustrated former version of the novel, even if they admit that the all-colour new edition will sell more on bookshelves. Oddly though, the version is closer to my original vision of what I wanted the cover to be like. The black and white illustration was my interpretation of a photo that I could in no way afford to use. The new one uses someone else’s illustration which I can afford the licensing on montaged with my own photograph, and I think represents the way that the burden of the war between the worlds falls on one girl who stumbles, literally, into the responsibility.
There has been much said of late as regards the way that Amazon has been slowly killing off high street stores and independents, and I do a feel a bit guilty about getting so completely in bed with Amazon with the eBook and POD publication of my novel. That said, the reason why the paperback has the admittedly high price of £10.99 is because I opened out the distribution as widely as possible to allow local bookshops to order it.
So today I did something that have never done before, and have been petrified of doing so. During our Saturday morning trip into Bicester I ventured into Cole’s Books to ask if they would be interested in stocking the book of a local author. I was half-expecting that on a Saturday there wouldn’t be the right person to talk to, but no, they were interested so long as they can get it on sale or return, but they scanned the barcode and it came up on their book distributor so I think that might be hopeful. Hey, I might even be able to do a book signing. Now that would be an experience…
Following my bravery, and the purchase of much healthy fruit and veg, Emma decided on the spur of the moment to take me for a celebratory lunch at Amici’s Italian Restaurant in Bicester. Whilst we were choosing from the scrummy menu we had the most torrential of downpours and the waiter was jokingly offering fresh, locally caught fish from the street outside! 🙂